Our HistoryHow Lambda Theta Phi and the Latin@ Greek Movement Came to Be
On December 1, 1975, history was made – history on a college campus, which would transcend other colleges/universities throughout the United States; history which would have a positive impact on the Latino community and our nation; history which would forever change the Greek system, more specifically, the entity known as a fraternity. On December 1, 1975, Lambda Theta Phi was founded on the campus of Kean College in Union, New Jersey.
In 1975, there were no Latino fraternities in existence in the United States. The Greek-letter organizations of the time primarily catered to Anglo and African-American students and graduates. Lambda’s founders, as men of vision, realized there was a need to unite the Latino students, develop their leadership skills, impart upon them the value of an education, and instill in them a commitment to their community and culture. The traditional student club would not suffice to accomplish such lofty goals. Hence, Latino unity and brotherhood would be achieved through a long recognized institution – the fraternity. This newest addition to the Greek system would be the first in the nation, by identity and by name: Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Incorporated.
The ideals of this brotherhood are the following: Academic Excellence; Brotherhood; Leadership; Latino Unity; Service. On a daily basis, our brothers live up to these ideals, as set forth by fourteen young Latino men decades ago.
At the undergraduate level, our brothers are active within the Fraternity and in other student organizations. Our brothers perform community service, promote our culture by sponsoring events which highlight and celebrate our heritage, participate in educational workshops, and enjoy many social programs. As a result of their active participation in every aspect of college life, our undergraduates are developing their organizational, communication, and leadership skills, all while pursuing the coveted diploma. Our younger Lambdas are receiving the training and competence to serve as the future leaders of our brotherhood, community, and nation.
At the professional level, among our ranks you will find attorneys, doctors, and engineers. Our brothers are shaping young minds as educators and as dedicated fathers. The men in brown and white are defending this country at home and abroad in the area of law enforcement and in the armed forces. We are strengthening our country’s economy as entrepreneurs. Our brothers are teaching leadership as coaches, mentors, and community activists. The Lambdas are affecting policy and change as elected officials serving on City Councils, Boards of Education, U.S. House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate. In short, Lambdas are contributing and excelling in every facet of human endeavor.
Since our founding, Lambda Theta Phi has established chapters in every region of the country at both the undergraduate and professional levels. Our brotherhood continues to provide the necessary skills and resources for the advancement and empowerment of our people and for the betterment of this nation.
Our illustrious history is not only our past but our guiding light to the future. As the first, we overcame many obstacles. Not having much guidance in our formative stages, we persevered and became stronger. Lambda is the product of vision, strength, and unity. Our history serves as a legacy and testament to our accomplishments and greatness.
Lambda Theta Phi … Academic Excellence – Brotherhood – Leadership – Latino Unity -Service.
The Fraternal Fathers
Cayetano Socarrás and José Quiles are the Fraternal Fathers of Lambda Theta Phi. The commitment and dedication they have given the Fraternity has earned them the love and admiration of all brothers.
In response to the title, José Quiles has stated, “I always felt I was a father of the Fraternity in the sense of being a technical resource, because a lot of the internal development was carried out by the Founding Fathers themselves.” Founding Father Agustín García concurs: “These two men fathered the brothers. A father teaches and these two men had taught.” The creation of Lambda Theta Phi was a learning process, and the two Fraternal Fathers were instrumental.
With numerous decisions to be made and strategies outlined, the brothers received guidance from two members of the Kean College faculty/administration. Specifically, Dr. Cayetano J. Socarrás, who passed away on January 24, 1994 and José Quiles, recognized within the brotherhood as the Fraternal Fathers of Lambda Theta Phi. Each of these men provided support, mentorship, and guidance to the Founding Fathers and have continued to do so as the Fraternity has developed. Their devotion to the ideals and brothers of Lambda extends far beyond what can be captured in a website.
Fraternal Father Cayetano J. Socarrás (Ph.D.)
Fraternal Father Dr. Cayetano J. Socarrás provided most of the assistance in developing a truly “Latino” identity for the Fraternity. Knowledgeable in the art of heraldry (crest design), Fraternal Father Socarrás guided the brothers in designing the original shield in 1976. As Fraternal Father Socarrás focused on the symbolic aspects of the brotherhood, Fraternal Father José Quiles assisted with the organizational components, including the structure and administration of the Fraternity. Dr. Socarrás passed away in 1994, may he rest in power.
Fraternal Father José A. Quiles (Ph.D.)
Experienced with and knowledgeable of fraternities and the Greek system in general, Fraternal Father José Quiles assisted the Founding Fathers to ensure the newly founded fraternity would fit into the Greek system on campus. Fraternal Father Quiles has often described his role in the Fraternity as a “technical resource” and continues to be a valuable asset to the brotherhood.
The Founding Fathers
From September to November of 1975, a group of students, from which would eventually emerge the Founding Fathers of Lambda Theta Phi, met to find the solution to uniting the different Latino groups on campus.
These meetings were initiated by Founding Father García, who had already spearheaded a important breakthrough for Latino students by becoming the first Latino elected to the Kean College student government. The major topics of discussion at these meetings were the need to become politically conscious and active as Latino students and the unification of all Latinos, since at the time “Latin Unity” was not common among students of different Latino national origins.
At a meeting on November 11, 1975, Founding Father García proposed the idea of founding a fraternity. Having become familiar with the workings of the college administration and student government he recognized that a fraternity could promote Latin unity through brotherhood. He also understood that fraternities were an organizational structure that college administrators acknowledged and one with which they were accustomed. Lambda Theta Phi was founded as a Latin Fraternity, which was specifically stated in its original constitution, making it the first “Latino” fraternity in the United States.
Luis Miranda I
As the Founders moved forward with the development of the Fraternity, many issues had to be addressed and the “culture” and symbolism of the Fraternity had to be created. The fraternity colors needed to be selected, a method of pledging determined, and the ritual associated with the brotherhood. One item which has generated controversy over the years has been the use of the Conquistador as the mascot of the Fraternity. In addition, the individuals participating in the fraternity’s induction or pledge process are referred to as Conquistadores. The concept of the Conquistador as a symbol of the Fraternity was introduced by Founding Father Agustín García and Founding Father Wilfredo Ayes interjected the Conquistador into the pledge process for the first pledge line in the spring of 1978.
Representing the Spanish crown, the Conquistadors came to the Americas in the sixteenth century and committed genocide of the indigenous populations. Why, then, would our Founders adopt the Conquistador as a symbol of our brotherhood? The literal definition of the term, as opposed to the role the Conquistador played in our history, was the overriding consideration: one who conquers; one who overcomes; one who triumphs.
North-American Interfraternity Conference
Over the years, the Fraternity has achieved many milestones in light of the contributions of other notable Lambdas. Among these milestones was Lambda Theta Phi becoming the first Latin fraternity to be accepted into the National Interfraternity Conference (NIC), the association composed of all national college fraternities of the United States and Canada. The process to gain acceptance into the NIC began under former National President Carlos Rivera and was completed in May of 1992 under former National President Arcelio Aponte. This major accomplishment was due, in great part, to the efforts of former National President Jesus A. Peña, Esq. and Brother Sham Bacchus.
National History Book
In 1994, another important moment in the history of the Fraternity occurred with the publication of The History of Lambda Theta Phi. Authored by former National President Jesus A. Peña, Esq., and now in its second edition, this book serves as the authoritative text on the history of Lambda Theta Phi. In addition, it is the first historical account of a Latin, Greek-letter organization to be published.
In 1995, during the presidency of Brother Reinaldo Cortés, the first national Lambda Theta Phi website went online. Since then various undergraduate and alumni chapters and sectors have posted sites.
The year 1998, witnessed the establishment of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Educational Foundation. This entity would be separate and distinct from the Fraternity. On July 26, 1998, former National Presidents Jesus A. Peña, Esq. and Jorge Díaz established the Foundation. These two brothers wrote the Foundation’s initial constitution and set forth its purpose: “…to raise funds in order to award scholarships/grants to Latino high school and college students, including Lambda Theta Phi brothers, for their leadership and educational development.” The Foundation is recognized by the NIC and Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) entity. Through the years, Founding Father Agustín García has served as the Foundation’s Chairman.
National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations
In 2004, Lambda Theta Phi became a member of the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO) under the leadership of former National President Jorge Díaz. At the end of 2014, after 10 years, Lambda elected to discontinue membership within NALFO due to a conflict between the values of the Association and the Fraternity; however, Lambda Theta Phi continues to take an active role as a member of the Latin@ Greek Letter Organization (LGLO) community, collaborating with all Latin@ Greek organizations.
First Chapter at an HBCU
In 2014 Lambda Theta Phi colonized its first entity at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) with the establishment of the Johnson C. Smith University Colony.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
2014 was also a notable year as it marked the signing of a historic agreement between Lambda Theta Phi and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). On July 30, 2014, President José Grajales met with leaders of CHCI to sign a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations for a philanthropic and service-oriented partnership to help develop Latin@ students nationwide. Lambda Theta Phi has committed to fundraising for CHCI’s R2L NextGen Program as its national philanthropy, as well as supporting CHCI’s Ready 2 Lead college readiness programs throughout the country with alumni and undergraduate mentors.
In addition to all that has been documented, the history of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. continues to be written each day by notable Lambdas across the country and in other parts of the world.
The majority of programs, events and initiatives sponsored by Lambda Theta Phi are carried out at the undergraduate and alumni or sector levels. These activities include charity fundraising, community clean-ups, mentoring in schools, educational and cultural programming, and hosting motivational speakers on campus. Social events at the undergraduate level include picnics, mixers, and parties. Our alumni also engage in social activities ranging from poker and domino nights and pool tournaments to networking receptions.
Throughout the country, sectors convene to sponsor regional dinners and conferences modeled after the national events. Although special National Board events are presented sporadically, certain events are consistently sponsored by the National Board:
Annual Anniversary Awards Banquet
The Fraternity has sponsored an annual awards banquet dating back to December of 1978. The banquet is a formal event, which features keynote speakers, dancing and entertainment in an elegant ballroom setting. At the banquets, the National Board recognizes individuals, chapters and sectors for their contributions and accomplishments.
The National Conventions are hosted every two years convening the voting representatives from all of the fraternity’s regions and the National Executive Board. Issues concerning the Fraternity at a national level are addressed, constitutional amendments, if any, are discussed and voted upon, and elections for the various national offices are held at these gatherings.
National Brotherhood Conferences are held on odd numbered years as a method to continuously educate our brotherhood on a variety of topics. Workshops are facilitated by alumni brothers and non-brothers, who specialize in specific fields. The conferences are aimed to meet both undergraduate and alumni interests.
In addition to the above, at our conventions and conferences, the attendees also enjoy recreational and social events. The locations have varied across the country based on proposals submitted by various sectors, which are selected via a competitive process conducted by the National Executive Board.
Historical Timeline of Lambda Theta Phi
1975 – December 1, Lambda Theta Phi, Latin Fraternity, Inc. is founded.
1976 – Brothers of Lambda Theta Phi also become known as “Lambdas.”
1978 – Fraternity shield completed with assistance of Fraternal Father Cayetano Socarrás and Honorary Brother Raymond Lago.
1979 – Lambda Theta Phi helps form coalition of Latino student organizations to protest a lack of services to Latino students at Kean College (now Kean University); it is the first mention of a “Latino Fraternity” in any print media in the U.S.
1980 – Fraternity shield is revised by Honorary Brother Raymond Lago.
1984 – Fraternity adopts “Latinos en Estados Unidos” by Willie Colon and Celia Cruz as its official song as proposed by the Founding Line of Epsilon Chapter.
1984 – Fraternity shield is revised into the current image by Epsilon Founding Brother Daniel Sedares under the guidance of Fraternal Father Cayetano Socarrás.
1986 – “Ahora,” a Spanish-Language newspaper out of Union City, NJ publishes a 2 ½ page article on the fraternity, the first story every printed about a Latino Greek Letter Organization (LGLO) in a Spanish-Language newspaper in the U.S.
1990 – A delegation of Lambdas lead by Founding Father Agustin Garcia represents the fraternity at the International Cuban Youth Conference for a Free Cuba (translated from Spanish) in Miami, FL; the fraternity was the only non-Cuban (specific) organization to participate and make a presentation at the event
1991 – Lambda Chapter, the first chapter outside of New Jersey is founded at the University of Connecticut.
1992 – Lambda Theta Phi is publicly thanked for their support during the acceptance speech of Brother Robert Menendez during his victory speech after being elected to Congress.
1992 – Lambda Theta Phi is the first Latin Fraternity to become members of the North-American Interfraternity Conference.
1994 – January 24, passing of Fraternal Father Dr. Cayetano Socarrás, affectionately known as Chacho to those brothers who have had the privilege of meeting him.
1994 – The history of Lambda Theta Phi,” written by Beta brother Jesus Peña, is published, making Lambda Theta Phi the first LGLO to have a published history book.
1995 – The fraternity posts its first website www.Lambda1975.org, built and designed by brothers Juan Aguilar and Carlos Morales.
1996 – Fraternity sponsors a contingent of brothers to participate in “’96 Será” a demonstration in Washington, DC to protest a wave of anti-immigrant legislation.
1998 – Former President Jorge Diaz and Jesus Peña establish Lambda Theta Phi Educational Foundation, a 501(c) (3) entity.
2001 – U.S. Senate Resolution for “Organizational Achievement,” presented to Lambda Theta Phi at our Annual Awards Banquet, November 25, from Senator Joseph Lieberman.
2001 – Lambda Theta Phi receives Community Service Award at the Annual Latino Greeks.com & NALFO Awards Gala.
2003 – Lambda Theta Phi becomes a member of the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO).
2003 – Lambda Theta Phi holds national press conferences in Washington, D.C. and organizes students and alumni across the country to protest a media merger that they believed would create a monopoly of Spanish-language media.
2005 – Lambda Theta Phi becomes the first Latin Fraternity to award a “Latina Scholarship” at its national awards banquet.
2006 – Lambda Theta Phi brother, Bob Menendez, was elected New Jersey U.S. Senator.
2007 – Lambda Theta Phi becomes the first U.S. Latin Fraternity to hold a Conference in Puerto Rico.
2008 – Former National President Byron Bustos establish Lambda Theta Phi Board of Trustees.
2008 – Lambda Theta Phi hires its first, full-time executive director, Gary Ballinger.
2009 – Lambda Theta Phi hires its second executive director, Byron Bustos.
2010 – Lambda Theta Phi becomes the first Latin Greek letter organization to be attributed by the institution it was founded (Kean University).
2014 – Lambda Theta Phi signs memorandum of understanding with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) as national philanthropic partner.
2014 – Lambda Theta Phi establishes its first entity at a historically Black college/university with the Johnson C. Smith University Colony.
2014 – Lambda Theta Phi hires its third executive director, Jarrod Cruz.
2014 – Lambda Theta Phi discontinues membership in National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO).
2016 – Executive Director Jarrod Cruz elected as the first North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) Fraternity Growth Accelorator (FGA) Council Representative.